Back to where we began….

Last night, my Czech friend Mirek wrote to me, offering to pick us up. He said the weather looks really bad, and you don’t want to finish the trip so wet.

I ‘politely’ declined. Tony and I both agreed that it would take something horrendous weather wise to agree to that. We wanted to finish, what we started, on our bike. Besides, our final day was a shorter, easier ride…well on paper we thought it was!

We checked the forecast. We could see his point. Weather forecasts can change overnight, and we had our fingers crossed. On the plus side, it was not going to be cold.

Waking up I checked and it was pouring down big time.

By the time we finished breakfast and changed clothes, the rain was easing! YES!

We headed out of Kutna Hora, up a hill and onto nice quiet country roads. The first village was Grunta, boasting about 20 houses and this amazing church.

We passed through the large town of Kolin but did not stop until we were back onto a bike path that followed the river Elbe. We had ridden through Kolin on our very first day.

It was a great sealed path and we enjoyed it…shared pathways are slower to ride on, but you can relax as there is not the traffic to contend with. Many are also used by local residential traffic so you can’t totally switch off.

Some photos from this section. There were taverns along the way. I imagine on a sunny summers day it would be a very pleasant place to chill out.

Note the cycle path signage. The Czechs have done a great job. No new infrastructure for bikes. What they do is use existing infrastructure, work our routes, map them, signage and at infrequent intervals larger area maps on the side of the road. This would be simple to do in Tasmania with minimal $ spent.

The plan was to stop in Podebrady for a coffee. I like Podebrady. The weather was looking ok.

The approach to Podebrady was very nice. Different aspect to my previous visits there.

We headed straight to a coffee shop we were familiar with adjacent to the main town park. We had not seen this part of the park before.

Whilst sitting in the cafe I was texting Mirek our whereabouts. I asked him the following…and then his response…

Awesome! We had enjoyed our ride on the sealed bike path to Podebrady and we looked forward to continuing on a ‘sealed’ path to Cekalovice, which is situated adjacent to the same river.

It started off nicely. The town in the distance is Nymburk.

The town fortification was interesting. It began soon after the town was established around 1275, with the more significant work carried out during the reign of King Vacaville II from 1288 to 1305,and a latter section in 1337 during the reign of John of Luxembourg.

The fortification is around 7-8 metres high, and had 50 towers. A deep defensive moat once existed in front of the walls.

The walls were badly damaged during the Thirty Year War in the 17th century, and reconstructed during the early 1900’s.

The town has a nice tower clock.

On the other side of town the sealed path turned to a single track. Narrow and slow. As we went on it became quite muddy and slippery in patches, and I ended up walking, pushing or using my bike as a scooter for the worst sections up twisting slopes.

I made a mental note to have a chat about the word ‘sealed’…I don’t think it translated! 😂😂 . Having said that though, it was ‘kinda’ fun, and slowed our progress to finishing our odyssey. Let’s face it, I did not really want to finish.

After fiddle farting around on the dirt for 10 km or so, drops of rain were felt. Wind was getting stronger, and we were at a bridge crossing the river Elbe.

We made an executive decision to hit the true, sealed road and head directly to the finish post.

12 km or so, and it was all over bar the photographs, memories, some scars from falls, 2 refrigerator magnets ( our sole souvenir purchases), 2 dirty bikes and lots of stories to tell.

Todays map….

Would I do it again? Heck Yes! I would start it all over tomorrow, no questions asked.

Tomorrow we train into Prague so keep,watch!

I see dead people…..

Another great day to ride. We have had five days straight with no rain! Garmin told me it was 26 degrees Celsius at its peak!

Our bikes were not in our rooms ( up two steep flight of narrow steps), but stored here surrounded by linen and stuff! When we headed to our room after our dinner the previous night, there were table cloths on the bikes, disguising them! We were the only guests in the penzion.

Leaving Tabor was slow…the cobblestone shuffle!

Looking back along the river this was the view.

The views today were not dissimilar to yesterday. Lakes, rivers, agricultural fields (wheat and canola), dotted with villages every few km or so.

We stopped for coffee in Vlasim.

More lovely water scenes…this one has a guy fishing.

Beautiful fields, and we did wonder what the beautiful maroon coloured plant was.

About 10 km later, I investigated….notwithstanding the fact that I inadvertently walked through a bunch of stinging nettle in the process. Both legs got well and truly ‘done’! A pretty plant. Any ideas what it is? The leaves were like a three leaf clover.

Tony and I have been impressed with all of the newer sealed roads in the Czech Republic. They have a really thick layer of bitumen and no obvious joins , like ours on the Bass Highway, where a thin seal is applied. Then they are constantly patching it up like a patch work quilt.

We encountered a reasonable amount of roadworks today. Here they have scraped back ready for a re seal on a side section. Take a look though…there are three layers, and those top two are thick. I put my drink bottle there for reference.

Shame we cannot do a better job with our bitumen.

Today was quite hilly, and as I mentioned earlier, quite hot. It was a pleasant surprise, at the top of a climb to find this little pop up shop. Yes, we had an icecream.

More nice scenery.

On the outskirts of Kutna Hora this amazing church came into view.

I had one main goal in Kutna Hora, and it was not this church, but one a few km on the other side of town.

After finding accomodation and the usual routines, we headed off on foot to a very ‘special’ and ‘entirely different’ church. The Cemetery Church of All Saints with the Ossiary, a world famous, UNESCO listed church since 1995.

It is the memorial site, final resting place for 60,000 people! The church was part of the oldest Cistercian monastery in Bohemia, founded in 1142.

The cemetery was greatly extended during the 14th century epidemics, with around 30,000 buried there.

In the spring of 1421, the Hussites troops captured Kutna Hora, attacking the area of the church, killing another 10,000 people requiring burial.

At the end of the 15th century, the cemetery was reduced in size, with bones from abolished graves were relocated to the ossuary.

The bones were decoratively arranged in the 16th century, then rearranged some 30 years later, then again in the 18th and 19th centuries.

It is certainly mind blowing seeing so many remains….some skulls have shiny heads from people rubbing them.

Extensive renovation and archeological works are currently underway. They have found more bodies.

It is quite confronting, despite the fact that we went there knowing what we would see. 60,000 people!

Walking back to accomodation we walked past the Cathedral. To the left is a cream coloured building. It is an unusual museum, but given the number of people smoking in Europe maybe it’s popular. It is owned and run by Philip Morris, of course!

We walked around this doors open today.

Tony found himself a new friend. Personally he was a bit too plastic for me.

The clouds are gathering. The forecast is not great. Tomorrow we finally return to our starting point in Cekalovice, some 20 km north of Prague. Nice weather would be great….

Tomorrow also marks 5 weeks since we left Cekalovice. Wow!

Another day, another journey, another story.

Todays map and chart.

Thanks for reading


Great touring day

Today was an awesome day to ride in the Czech Republic, as we approach our final days. The weather behaved, the route was great and we had a really chillaxed ride.

We chose to walk out of the old Cesky Krumlov town, as the cobbles are so uneven with tyre width gaps.

Our final views of a wonderful town. We walked through this arch and whilst crossing a bridge, took a look back towards the castle.

This was our route today.

Sunday morning is a great time to ride. We have found each Sunday to be much quieter and today was no exception. As the day went on, the main traffic were other cyclists of all shapes, sizes, ages and capability.

It was an up and down rolling day.

Predominantly great roads. The smile says it all.

A cute horse and cart…taken on the fly, the man was cut out, but the horse is nice!

There were numerous lakes today intertwined with forests.

We stopped for a coffee break half way, in the town of Trebon. It seems to be a centre for all things bikes. Every place has bike racks. The lakes around the town have heaps of different riding routes.

Leaving Trebon we felt some rain spots. Dark clouds had rolled over whilst we had our coffee. Fortunately our direction was different to the rain clouds and we were delighted!

The theme of lakes, rivers and forest continued.

Reaching the outskirts of Tabor, we finished our ride with a nasty little climb to the old town, passing other cyclists who pushed their bikes up the hill.

We did not have any accomodation booked, so I whipped my iPad out and sourced a Penzion some 500 metres away.

We took an immediate like to the old town. It was humming. The market square had a large screen up with cycling! We thought awesome!

We showered and walked back into the square, noting ice hockey was now on, so we wandered around to check the old town out.

The rest of the town was pretty quiet really. I think they must have all been watching the ice hockey.

The Old Castle was interesting, but closed. It is the oldest building in Tabor and dates back to the second half of the 13th century. The importance of the castle for fortification purposes was lessened by time and fires to such an extent that it was turned into a brewery around 1612.

Only one tower of the four remains.

Returning to market square, there were big celebrations. We checked out the screen and noticed that the Czech Republic were playing Russia. The Czechs had just scored a goal to take a 2-1 lead in the match.

We remembered then that the ice hockey world championships are currently on in Bratislava, Slovenia. We had noticed the signs when we were there nearly 4 weeks ago.

The match was for the bronze medal.

We decided to have dinner at a restaurant in the square seated so we too could watch.

This was our view.

Russia levelled the scores….it was a very tense, scoreless, third and fourth quarter and the match went to a penalty shoot out in Russia’s favour. Not what the crowd wanted.

As the Russian national anthem was about to be played, the screen was switched off. All over red rover!

Someone enjoyed his dinner in the warm sun. We realised that after 35 days on the road touring this was our first evening meal where the conditions were warm enough to be outside.

Tomorrow the weather is looking ok again!!! Two days left on the road. 😢

Thanks for reading


Tough but rewarding day on the bike

A great ride again today, tough because of the amount of climbing. Rewarding due to the scenery and achieving the tougher physical effort.

Leading Passau we made our way over the bridge to look at the town and the raging rivers. The third river, Ilz, seemed calm and passive.

Initially we had been concerned that perhaps the cycle path may be impacted on the ‘other’ side, but there were no issues as the cycle path is quite high up. Lower walkways were submerged.

We found a mermaid.

We had wondered whether the cruise boats still operate during floods. We passed a couple tied up, buses off loading passengers and luggage and seemingly boarding.

Then we saw this one creating quite a bow wave as it fought against the flood waters. The boat appeared to have no passengers.

Even in flood, the Danube is in a beautiful setting.

Leaving the river, we turned left, and this is where the hard work started. Today we climbed heaps. This is made harder for us given the extra weight we are carrying ( luggage wise).

Here is our climbing graph. You can see numerous climbs, including two longer ones at the 20 km and 43 km points. The latter one was a mongrel!

In between climbs (you tend not to stop and take photos whilst climbing), there were lovely views. At the end of the first longer climb, there was a cafe calling our name to stop! It had quirky ‘art work’ predominantly made from recycled horse shoes.

We checked our data and realised then that we had a bigger climb still to do. Bugger.

What we did not realise was that we would be crossing borders into Austria. We thought we farewelled Austria yesterday. Austria was looking great, gentle rolling hills. Germany was just over a creek the road ran parallel to.

Then it got nasty. That second climb was tough. Still riding at tempo pace, the climb gave me a personal best FTP of 216 Watts ( previously 201 Watts) so I was really happy as I still had more in the tank.

At the top there was a lodge (no food or drink available until 2 pm, and we were not hanging around), and cute animals and wooden figurines. We had Euro on us, but out if Czech money hence our desire to eat in Austria.

We rolled down the hill and just like that we are back in the country where our journey started over 4 weeks ago.

Czech Republic was looking good too.

We stopped at a pub and had a bowl of goulash each. Very cheap and they took Euros! For 7 Euro we had a bowl of soup, a large bottle of frizzante and Tony a soft drink. Cheaper than Austria where morning tea was 15 Euro.

A few other bikes in the rack too.

Rolling along the afternoon was much easier.

We arrived in Cesky Krumlov to hoardes of tourists and cobblestones, so we walked the last km to locate our accomodation. Riding on cobblestones paved so unevenly hard, let alone avoiding tourists.

We are spending two nights here so we can have a good look around tomorrow.

Our apartment is very close to this castle.

Day 32, done and dusted. How time flies by, and wow, we have certainly covered some ground.

Todays map. I made it a bit smaller so you can see Prague. It’s within a few hundred km if we go directly. If the weather ho,de, Tabor may be next.

Thanks for reading



The forecast today was warm. When we left Prague Moravska Trebova it had been 8 degrees Celsius. It got down to 4 degrees on the first day so to read that it would get to 28 degrees was a pleasant surprise.

Ah, yes but there would be a southerly wind. Of course, we were heading south as we had decided to pop into Vienna, 140 km away.

Beautiful looking out our bedroom window in the early Brno morning. It was 7 am and the church bells had just commenced.  The market was being set up.


A substantial breakfast, quick pack and we left Brno around 8.15 am, to contend with early morning traffic.  I am not a fan of cobbles, most people understand why.  I’m not keen on tram tracks either.  Here we had both!

Leaving Brno navigationally speaking was easier than anticipated. Once we had crossed over a plethora of railway and tram lines we were in an industrial area and picked up a cycle track adjacent to the river.



For a section this morning we were on Euro Velo 9, a route that goes from the Baltic to Adriatic Seas, and one we have considered riding the length of.


The first 50 km was really pleasant riding. It was warm with a gentle southerly breeze ( maybe 10 kmh). It provided a gentle cooling effect.

Again we were predominantly riding through agricultural areas interspersed with various sized towns and villages.



It was mid 20’s by mid morning and we had left our lip balm on the floor of Mirek’s house, so we stopped at a chemist shop to buy balm and some sun screen. The view up and down the main Street in Zidlochovice.



Leaving town this was our bike path.


We crossed a small bridge over the river.


The road started to undulate as we headed towards a large lake Nové Mlýny.


We needed to cross this lake and head to the right hand side of the hill.
Glorious sunshine – brilliant riding through here.
Remnants of an old castle at the top of the hill.

The lake features a lengthy bridge crossing. You can see a small section on the far right of this picture.


Riding through the small village of Horni Vestonice, we rode past many of these structures, predominantly constructed under the small rise.


The village of Horni Vestonice. I was disappointed the icecream shop was closed!


We had planned to grab some refreshments at Mikulov, a few km short of the border with Austria. Arriving into town we were surprised just how large and busy it was, with lots of heavy transport vehicles. We opted to stop at a service station on our side of the road, rather than cross into ‘centrum’.

Best we could find in such a busy spot!

Quickly consumed a Mr Brown!


Whilst it might not have been the best spot to sit, it did come with a pretty top view of Mikulov Castle.  The castle stands on a place of historic Slavonic settlement. The original castle was commenced during the thirteenth century, and the current one early 1700’s.

The Germans occupied Mikulov during WWII and upon withdrawing from the town, set fire to the castle. The local museum historical collection was destroyed as it had been stored there for safekeeping.


Crossing the border was easy, as the checkpoint buildings were closed. Looking back,  the castle was still in sight.



After a brilliant morning with no navigational issues, the wheels fell off the cart. We arrived in an area of massive roadworks associated with the extension to the autobahn.

Trucks seemed to converge at speed and were whizzing past is very closely, giving us the absolute heeby jeebies!

Extensive map consultation took us on a couple of longer, ‘alternative’ routes through agricultural land.



Eventually one of our routes arrived at a junction where the highway and autobahn connectors met sans roadworks. We took the major arterial road and stayed on this route all the way to Vienna, as per our original route plans.

Stopping in Poysdorf we opted to have a more substantial lunch.

Tony enjoying his lasagne

Poysdorf is quirky, with many statues around.



Nice village

The southerly wind had increased in intensity and we were to have it in our face for the rest of the ride, adding a bit more of a challenge.  Whilst it slows you down, for most of the time, it provided effective cooling as it was now the forecast maximum of 28 degrees Celsius.



As we approached the outskirts of Vienna, one final rest for the bikes at a supermarket whilst I grabbed some supplies.


Vienna is a large city with an intricate road network. The final 20 km was quite slow with constant stopping and starting for red lights.

We crossed the Danube River as our accomodation was nearer the city centre. A few challenges finding our hotel as the street address differs to where it is actually located (on an adjacent street).

Great hotel, self check in (new one for me) and the bikes are in our room! They provide you with a portable device to take around town with wifi, phone calls free of charge. I am impressed.

Tomorrow we intend to cruise around Vienna and see what we find and maybe head down the Danube on the westerly flanks.

Today this was our route and elevation map.



Thanks for reading and I look forward to letting you know what we got up to in Vienna where we are spending two nights.





I changed my mind

One of the aspects of cycle touring is that you need to be flexible and adaptable. Whilst I had a carefully crafted route mapped out with supporting accomodation, health, safety and enjoyment come first.

We woke up and confirmed via meteorological sources that we would have a tough day heading to Rybnik with strong winds forecast. So we changed our minds and decided to head to Brno.

Changing your mind comes at a cost because there is a domino ripple with subsequent days routing but we would look at that once in Brno.

The accomodation in Merovska Trebova was quirky. An extraordinarily well appointed apartment right down to magnifying reading glasses and every conceivable toiletry possible.

The owner who had seemed somewhat inebriated the previous night (perhaps frustrated at our very late arrival) had been disappointed we would not drink beer with her.  Sleep was on our mind!

She scrubbed up early as we had requested 7 am breakfast and met in in the cellar.  Quite literally the cellar.


Our bikes had been stored there overnight.


We demolished a wonderful breakfast. This is all we left.


Packed and ready to roll we headed into the village square.  It was a fresh and crispy 8 degrees. Very pretty little town.



After riding at 8 kmh for 1.5 km on the cobbles we had found our navigational starting point. We were both cold as 8 kmh doesn’t not generate any body heat. I was glad to get off the cobbles given my history last year where I ended up with multiple fractured teeth and ribs riding on cobbles.

Today provided different challenges.  It was cold and the easterly wind still prevailed. Navigationally it was very slow at times due to a few different factors.  Weird and often confusing route selection by our Garmin app, blockages and a variety of surfaces.

Wandering sheep and patched road, but beautiful area
Nice meandering bike path

We were lucky to miss this fallen tree, it had only just fallen.  Ahead you can see a man with a chain saw coming to cut it away from the track.

Solid dirt and gravel trail

My favourite sealed trail beside a creek.


This is an example of a weird course route decision by Garmin. There was a 20 percent incline section, which is a push the bike up the hill kind of moment. We had to walk up and around this blockage too.


We perservered with the odd route, inherently believing it to be wrong. We heard a big noise as we descended down this hill and had to get ourselves and our bikes off the track and lean back flat against some trees.


The towns and villages today were again predominantly rural.  It was quite overcast for most of the ride hence the gloomy look.



The Czech Republic has the highest density of castles per sq km of any country in the world.  Here is just one we passed in Letovice.


Church building in the same town.


Arriving in Brno we sat down in the main town square and booked ourselves into this hotel. They were so accommodating with the bikes.  The older concierge guy had been watching somewhat curiously. He disappeared and the lady at reception started telling me there was no room in the luggage locker…she was interrupted by this man who in Czech told her that he had rearranged the room and our bikes would fit in!  I was so excited and thanked him, but all he wanted was a hug! Sweet guy.


After showering and washing our clothes we started to wander. In the photo below you can just see some of our clothing drying in our window on the third floor. A feature of our rides is ha going clothes to dry in prominent spots. It is like the Queens flag flying above her castles indicating her presence.


The old church is interesting.  Originally constructed back in the 12th century it was rebuilt around 1400’s.  At some point the Swedish attacked the area, and the church powers decided to torch all the homes on the hill leading up to the church to keep the Swedish at bay. The fire was so successful and inconceived that it continued up the hill and burned the church.

It was left unrepaired and the Swedish had a second crack a hundred years later further damaging the site.  It was repaired/rebuilt in the 18th century led by a man named Grimm.  Interestingly his body was one of the many we saw in the crypt.

The crypt has 50 plus preserved bodies for viewing. It was a bit creepy really!







More sites around town.

Icecream van 

This window display attracted us. A little bit of Australia in the Czech Republic.


The Czechs certainly love their beer, putting most Australians to shame. Tonight there was a beer festival on with 30 plus different beer vendors selling copious quantities.


I particularly liked the name of this beer. Terrible photo of Tony but really I like to think that he is one…..


The highlight for me was Mr Peltek from Ukraine. This guy was so talented with his guitar skills and singing voice. He was brilliant and I could have listened to him for ages as he belted out well known hits.  I popped some money into his guitar case and felt it should be full given how many people were so obviously enjoying his entertainment.


Walking back to the hotel, the grimace on this guys face amused me.


Back at our hotel, the square has emptied somewhat.


With the final view from our room.


Todays route. We ended up in Brno, just does not show it.



So tonight we plot and decide what tomorrow will bring. We have a rough idea, but you will have to wait and see!!





Blowing in the wind!

I woke very early to the sound of wind. Bugger! I got up and stuck my head out the window trying to work out the orientation of the house. Bugger…it was an easterly!

I climbed back into bed but slept restlessly as I knew it was not going to be a walk in the park kind of day.

After breakfast we bade our farewells and hit the road.

All geared up and ready to roll

This is the route we took today. When I checked the forecast in the morning it was for 25-35 mph ( not km/h) in the morning easterly direction, changing to up to 50mph in the afternoon.  Bugger! As can be seen from our route, we were heading in an east to,south easterly direction.


Today was the hardest day I have ever done in a bike, regardless of distance.

We rode a total of 174 km incredibly slowly due to the wind. I was pedalling downhill and doing 15 kmh on a 3 percent decline. On the flats I was lucky to get 10-12 kmh in the worst winds.

We also climbed just over 1600 metres.


The wind was in our face all day, without reprieve. I’ve not experienced such unrelenting wind before as often you change direction or the wind settles down.

It is difficult to picture wind but in the photo below, you can see the dirt being whipped off the farm land.


We rode through a number of charming villages.


One a variety of surfaces.



Taking any opportunity to draft!


Predominantly an agricultural region with the canola in flower. Canola is grown widely here as a form of bio fuel.  Apparently the Republic’s president has a financial interest in many of them bio fuel companies.



Thirst was not an issue today, but we found a few of these drinking machines where you can purchase still or carbonated water.


Service stations were the go today, as they had clean toilets and ‘food’.


Probably our favourite town today was Limotsyl.



Hindsight shows that we should have stopped here as it started to bucket down with rain just after for some 30 km.

We refuelled at a pub around 30km from our destination for much needed tucker. This also got us out of the wind and rain and in front of a nice wood heater. I had no idea what I ordered for dinner but recognised one word ‘schnitzel’. Obviously no Czech translation so,ordered two!

The downside to stopping meant we completed the last 20 km of the ride in the dark. That was a challenge as we only had our warning lights on the bike. There was a climb in total darkness between two villages. No lights, no moon due to the rainy sky. That was technically challenging as was the descent as there were toads all over the road. No pictures either!!

We were pleased to arrive at our accomodation only to find that Tony’s mobile was flat and we could not ring the owner to come and let us in. Half an hour later we were in, showered and went to bed!

Given tomorrows forecast it is likely we will tweak the itinerary as the strong winds are forecast for the next few days. A real shame, but nothing you can do about the weather but act safely!

So more photos from today that we liked.


















We’ve arrived…to a traditional Czech Easter welcome

There is nothing glamorous about long haul travel. 4 plane flights later and we have arrived in Prague.

We were collected by my Zwifting friend Mirek and his daughter Eliska.  I spent a week with Mirek and his family last year.  Having me stay is his ‘reward’ or ‘punishment’ for ‘convincing’ me to ride in the 24 hour Zwift event last year!

We detoured via a higher part of Prague to overlook the city and see the largest sports stadium in the country.


The stadium is in the background. The tall tower directly behind us in an air vent for the tunnel beneath us. Very tall!

Highest priority once in Cekalovice was putting the bikes together.  All appears fine and they have blended into their new home well.


Sarka was busy decorating eggs when we arrived. It is an Easter tradition on the Monday here to have the decorated (hard boiled) eggs, which later get eaten. I was learning the finer art of decorating. Sarka teaches children at a primary school, (3 grades) and I can tell she is very experienced at this! I did not find it that easy at all!

Straight into the Czech Easter tradition

Here are some of the finished products.

I can see a Sharron Yaxley original design in the bowl!

The egg below was decorated by an elderly local lady.  After colouring the egg with a dye, the egg is carved with a pin head! Extremely intricate and painstaking!


We wandered into town via the river for dinner.  I have swapped my mode of transport.  Scooter it is….although I am not ambidextrous, only being able to push off with one leg. I did manage to get the route onto strava!!



Mirek is busy at breakfast building a wheel for his bike before heading off for the Easter Monday tradition.


Easter Monday, I was told that ‘boys’ knock on the door and ‘whip’ the girls backsides with their canes.  I interpreted boys as pre puberty age male

I was wrong.  Traditional Czech welcome!

The Czech Easter welcome!

In return, the children receive Easter tokens.  The men receive a shot of an alcoholic beverage!

Amazing hand made biscuit art work

So with that, I will sign off and get ready for a ‘coffee ride’ with my Czech friends I rode with last year.  I think we might be heading to Podebrady, so Tony can experience the surprising water fountain.